Calgary’s Afghan community is busy trying to do what it can to help after the worst earthquake in that country in 20 years.
The 6.1 magnitude quake hit the provinces of Khost and Paktika last week, killing more than 1,000 people and displacing thousands of others.
But international sanctions against Afghanistan’s Taliban-led regime are hampering the efforts of people in Calgary who want to send money to help.
“We have family not far away and they are definitely impacted,” said Malik Selemankhel with the Afghan Canadian Association of Calgary. “People felt it far away in different countries.”
“Many people in Calgary have lots of relatives and friends in that region,” said Selemankhel. “They’re unable to even support them financially because of restrictions and sanctions. The main issue is sanctions on the banking sector, so even if we want to collect money, sending it is a big challenge.”
Selemankhel says he’s even had problems trying to send money to the Red Crescent Society’s bank account in the country — one of the main charities helping there.
“Unless you are part of the Red Cross or the United Nations, for us as normal people outside the country, it’s difficult,” he said.
Selemankhel says it’s possible to send a wire transfer up to $1,000 to family through a service like Western Union. Family members could, in theory, then transfer it to charities on the ground there, but he says that system isn’t very efficient.
Community fundraising events are happening over the next couple of days in Calgary. Organizers say the earthquake is close to a lot of people’s hearts in the city.
“We have a board member who’s family are from the same village where this happened,” said Ehsan Aminzada with Calgary’s Imam Azam Islamic Centre. Homes there are typically made out of mud bricks.
Aminzada says donations will go to their Afghanistan Earthquake Relief Fund through TD Bank to provide both immediate and longer-term help.
“We have the Afghan Cultural Association that has charitable status and they have connections in the country so we will make sure the money goes to the right place and the right people,” said Aminzada.
“We will send the money through them.”
“All we can do is pray and donate. It’s so devastating, it’s horrific,” he said.
Checker Cabs is holding a BBQ for its drivers Tuesday where Aminzada says he has been invited to raise funds.